Muscat: Ministry of Manpower has extended the visa ban on some occupations in the country, as the Sultanate continues to push its Omanisation policy. The latest visa ban instituted by the ministry follows up on the initial announcement that was made at the end of January 2018, where 87 job sectors were reserved for only Omanis, and then renewed midway through last year.
According to Article 1 of Decree No. 73/2019, “All permits to hire non-Omani workers will be suspended temporarily in private sector occupations for a period of six months.”
The fields affected include information technology, accounting, finance, marketing, sales, administration and Human Resources, insurance, information & media, some medical and airport professions, and engineering
and technical professions.
However, the Ministry of Manpower added that this does not include the permits that were issued before this decree. Those expats may continue to work until the end of the visa period, but small and medium enterprise (SME) owners and developers are allowed to continue to hire expat workers, according to Article 2, which states, “This decision does not apply to business owners who are registered with the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprise Development, or to the owners insured by the Public Authority for Social Insurance.”
Saif Al Badi, Head of the Oman Chambers of Commerce and Industry Branch in Al Dhahirah, told Times of Oman it was important that SMEs were exempt from the visa ban.
“The exception of small and medium-sized business owners is a positive thing because it will help entrepreneurs have more power and control in the market,” he said.
“This feature could also result in more people leaving their positions in the government sector to start their own businesses in the private sector, thus allowing jobseekers to fill their place.”
Al Badi added, “This decision is important because the job market must be organised and regulated. We face the problem of an overload of workers in some sectors; for example, the real estate sector faces an increase in supply but a decrease in demand. Before ending the visa ban, the ministry must ensure that the market is no longer in need of expat workers.”
Oman’s government had decided to step up its Omanisation campaign at the beginning of 2018. The ban was further extended in July 2018 for the second time, and again in February 2019 for the third time.
According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information, of the 2,041,190 workers in the private sector, only 250,717 are Omanis, with the vast majority – 87.72 per cent – being expatriates.
More than 60,000 Omanis have been given jobs in private sector companies, as part of the Omanisation policy in the last one year.
The Ministry of Manpower had previously said that private companies needed to hire more nationals, with Salim bin Nasser Al Hadhrami, DG of Planning at the Ministry of Manpower, saying, “There will be a crisis in hiring Omanis with higher qualifications, as it is related to the economy,” in response to some companies displaying an unwillingness to hire more Omanis due to higher wage requirements, a sentiment that had been echoed by the Majlis Al Shura.
Mohammed Al Busaidi, the head of the Youth Committee at the Shura Council, had previously said, “The proportion of Omanisation in the private sector, especially in jobs where there are Omani jobseekers, should increase to 80 per cent in some professions. We need long-term solutions to this so that they are sustainable solutions and that we do not just put in place immediate or urgent solutions. This concern is very large and needs to have one body concerned with the employment of jobseekers.”
In addition, Ramanuj Venkatesh, a financial analyst with experience in Oman and other GCC countries, added, “It is true that overseas migrants have been integral to the development of the Omani economy and infrastructure, as is the case with the rest of the GCC countries as well, while simultaneously training the local work force to take over these jobs in the future.”
“But now, the authorities in these countries are pursuing policies of Omanisation and other nationalisation programmes, so that their locals can get gainful jobs. The private sector provides many opportunities for locals to learn and improve their skill sets, as well as to promote growth and development. This is why the number of foreign employees has been dropping over the past few years.”
Company officials, however, had mixed responses to the ban. “It would be great if the ban is removed as I am struggling to hire people,” said S Kumar, who runs an IT firm.
However, Mohammed Kamran, who runs a business, said that this ban meant more jobs for locals.
“This is a way of moving forward,” he said.
According to data from the NCSI, there has been a 3.6 per cent drop in expat worker numbers by the end of December 2018 compared with December 2017.